Monday, January 7, 2013

Jazz Education Network

I am writing this post as I fly home to Connecticut from the Jazz Education Network conference in Atlanta.  The conference theme was "Networking The Jazz Community... Local to Global", and networking I did.  Although I attended many performances and clinics, I decided beforehand that I wanted to emphasize relational building activities, rather than merely running from event to event.  From the moment I stepped into the hotel conference center (on Friday morning), I was fully immersed in conversations with educators, university administrators, publishers, authors, musicians, arrangers, festival promoters, old friends... and new ones too.  It was exhilarating to say the least.

I lead (and contributed to) a panel discussion about jazz blogging with George Colligan ( and David Valdez (  We titled the presentation, "Blogging With A Purpose ---- Educating and Building the Jazz Audience Base." In one hour we disseminated a lot of useful information and even I walked away having learned some new things.

From the scheduled conference offerings, the following stood out as being exceptional:

University Big Band Performances:

  • University of Northern Colorado Jazz Lab Band 1 - Dana Landry, director
  • University of Southern Mississippi Jazz Lab Band 1 - Larry Panella, director
  • University of Miami Frost Concert Jazz Band - Dante Luciani, director

Professional Performances:

The Mike Pope/Jim White/Stefan Karlsson Trio was truly fantastic.  Because the three musicians are longtime friends, they demonstrated an uncanny degree of comfort in their musical report/risk-taking together.  Technically impressive, super musical and fun.


  • Effective Tools for Composing/Arranging Using Finale.  Socrates Garcia, clinician.
Although I consider myself an experienced/expert user of the Finale music software notation program, I learned a number of valuable, time-saving shortcuts (which I will put into practice this week as I finish up a chart!)  This clinic was pure gold.
  • Get Your Groove On! Michael Mossman, clinician
Mike is a former teacher and ongoing mentor of mine.  I admire the confidence he justifiably exudes, stemming from his comprehensive knowledge and experience as an arranger and seasoned New York City musician.
  • Jazz Composition and Arranging in the Digital Age.  Michael Abene and Richard Sussman, clinicians
In addition to being great musicians, these guys know how to laugh and have a good time.  I appreciate that!
  • Teaching Jazz History as a Perceptual Learning Experience.  Mark Gridley, clinician
Of the jazz history texts I have perused, Mark Gridley's is my favorite.  It provides a solid overview without getting too bogged down in details.  I agree with his goal of teaching lifelong listening and jazz appreciation skills.  It was a kick to meet him.

The logo of the Jazz Education Network.  JEN.

Panel Discussions:

  • From the Classroom to the Bandstand:
Bob Mintzer, John Clayton, Don Braden and Javon Jackson shared tips pertaining to the assemblage of a successful performance career.

Although I'm feeling a degree of physical exhaustion, my two days at the JEN conference in Atlanta have recharged my creative batteries.  I have ideas abound, including a performance project to propose at next year's conference in Dallas.  Maybe I'll see you there!

... posing with one of my musical heroes, jazz arranger, Michael Abene.
... posing with the great jazz arranger, Michael Abene.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Love Wins!

Wishing everyone a cheerful "Happy New Year!" doesn't quite feel appropriate this year. My heart is still heavy for the families of Newtown.  My musical colleague and friend, Jimmy Greene lost his daughter Ana Grace in this tragic massacre.  Despite the inspirational faith the Marquez-Greene family has demonstrated through this terrible ordeal, we know their adjustment and healing is only just barely beginning.  I pray for them several times a day.

The theme of Ana's funeral was "Love Wins".  I'm still wearing my purple bracelet with this inscription.  The Greenes referred to the service as a "home going celebration", as they know with certainty that Ana is now with Jesus, in a better place.  We also know that we are still here, in this flawed world --- a world that desperately needs our love to radiate.  Despite my sadness and deep feelings of empathy for the Greenes, I left that service feeling inspired, changed and wanting to do my part.  I resolve not to let those feelings dissipate as time passes. 

Love Wins

Like many people, I typically spend some time reflecting as I go into a new year, making lists of things I hope to accomplish. Usually this list pertains to my career in music, fitness and time management.  To list the gigs I aspire to play, music I hope to write, and solos I want to transcribe just seems like a trivial exercise this year.

Instead, I want to focus more on things of eternal consequence, rather than the ephemeral.  I want this year's resolutions and aspirations to reflect "Love Wins".  I want to show love in my life.  I want to teach my kids how to be caring, and demonstrate love and compassion in their lives.  I've got some serious work cut out for me here.

Reading and memorizing scripture is a first step.  This week my family, including our youngest, memorized Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

My wife and I are also planning an alternative to traditional church, with a strong focus on building community and serving others.  We are calling it Acts of Mansfield.  Our first outing was singing Christmas carols with a group of neighborhood friends at a local nursing home.  Future events will be listed on the Facebook page we created, where we described the group as:

We are Bible believing Christians who don’t seem to fit into Christian culture. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we saw the need for meaningful, lasting change in our lives. We have this strong desire to “press in;” to embody what it means to show love and compassion in a more tangible way. So, we have decided to leave our church pew and we are choosing to ACT. Each Sunday, we plan to love God and love God’s people through acts of service.

Our hope is that you will join us and that our mission is contagious. All are welcome – believers, seekers, doubters – truly, come as you are. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world (Gandhi).
...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. -Acts 1:8

This description may evolve over time. Who knows?  Maybe this idea will catch on and we will see similar groups pop up --- Acts of Chicago, Acts of Denton, Acts of Winnipeg, Acts of Scranton...  I hope as a society we can all embrace the power of love, and work together.  In honor of all of the victims of Sandy Hook, love wins.